Readers of this blog know that I use fresh produce a lot – and this should come as no surprise: I grew up in a political system that made people very resourceful, and fresh produce was always our number #1 food option since meat was pretty much non-existent. Fast forward 20+ years, and fruits and veggies are still my best friends. I love, love, love a fresh, lightly dressed salad or a tart chock-full of summer berries. I love the colors, the flavors, the smell. I love to close my eyes while taking a bite, and to remember delicious treats of summers past spent in my home country. With school out for the summer, my niece and I would visit our relatives’ house, about 20 miles away from the city – and we would stuff our faces with fresh produce all summer long!
Heirloom tomatoes were a regular appearance in our relatives’ garden in the summer. Meaty, slightly sweet and deliciously thirst-quenching, they always gave me a much-needed energy boost to go on with my playing. I remember eating 5 or 6 in one sitting: they were that good, that flavorful! I have tried to find similar tomatoes ever since, and at one point I thought these unique flavors from my past were well and truly lost. What a difference a few weeks makes, though! I recently had the chance to try out some heirloom tomatoes that tasted exactly like the ones I used to eat as a child: the Pure Flavor tomatoes. These tomatoes + me = a match made in heaven 🙂
I met Sarah Pau from Pure Flavor at the United Fresh Mkt Expo, which took place in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. A true “veggie doctor” (as she appeared to me, anyway :-)) with a substantial background in the field, Sarah walked me through the company’s products and shared some of her impressive expertise with me, the aspiring veggie-grower. It is amazing how much you can actually find out just by looking at veggies carefully!
Pure Flavor produce is grown in greenhouses in Leamington, Ontario, one of Canada’s most successful greenhouse destinations. They use cutting-edge hydroponics technology to ensure a perfectly controlled climate inside the greenhouses and to protect their veggies from pests – the latter through an integrated pest management system which releases “good bugs” to destroy the “bad bugs.”
Hydroponics has several advantages over traditional agriculture, which have long been documented (here‘s one recent study of the strengths and weaknesses of hydroponics as applied to a specific crop in Arizona). Hydroponics produces a lot more fruits&veggies from the same physical space, uses up to 90% less water, and employs a carefully selected range of premium nutrients in its water supply. Controlled high yields means that consumers can enjoy their favorite produce – such as the gorgeous heirloom tomato pictured below! – year-round without a problem.
Sarah gave me a gift box full of Pure Flavor goodies – and from then, the challenge was mine: to create at least one dish which celebrated summer produce. So exciting!
I was so inspired by the flavors of the veggies that I ended up making not one, but three dishes. Below you will find the recipe for dish #1, in which I paired heirloom tomatoes with fresh lean salmon and the very fashionable hulled millet. This dish is very easy to make, very flavorful, and last but not least, very light – perfect for summer lunch or dinner!
Start off by placing the cleaned salmon on an aluminum foil in a large baking pan. Slice red and yellow tomatoes and place a few slices on top of the salmon, alternating the colors, just enough to cover the fish completely. Set the remaining tomato slices aside (for the salad you’ll be making a little bit later).
Sprinkle chopped thyme and chives over the salmon, as well as fresh lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Fresh herbs bring crucial flavors to this dish, so I would strongly advise you to go the extra mile and use fresh herbs instead of dried. It really is worth it 🙂
Such amazing colors!
When you’ve finished, seal all edges of the aluminum foil to wrap the salmon in it completely, and place it in the preheated oven to cook for 30 minutes.
While the salmon is cooking, bring 2 cups of water to boil in a saucepan. Rinse the millet in cold water, drain, and then add it to the pan of boiling water. Cook the millet over a medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed completely.
Make the millet salad by quickly mixing the warm millet with chopped cucumber, extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until well combined.
To make the tomato salad, take the remaining tomato slices, cut them into pieces, and place them in a medium salad bowl. Add chopped green onion, mint and 1/2 cup parsley, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Mix until well combined and set aside.
Take the salmon out of the oven and let it cool down for a few minutes. Cut the salmon into 4 equal portions and serve with millet and tomato salad on the side.
Enjoy – and stay tuned for my produce-based recipe #2! 🙂
*Disclaimer: While I received a complimentary tasting of Pure Flavor’s products to facilitate this post, all opinions expressed here are my own.